It’s no surprise to Dan Davis that Jackson County residents give more money to charity per donor than those in nearby counties.
In fact, Jackson County’s giving ratio in 2012 was higher than the state average, according to a recent report from The Chronicle of Philanthropy.
On average, American households donate around 3 percent of their income to charity each year. For Indiana, that amount is slightly higher at 3.26 percent.
Locally, Jackson County households gave 3.69 percent for total contributions of nearly $15.5 million in 2012. The median for county donors is roughly $4,000.
The giving ratio is the percentage of adjusted gross income given to charity as reported on income tax forms. Since it’s based on Internal Revenue Service reports, 2012 is the most recent year data was available.
As president and chief executive officer of the Community Foundation of Jackson County, Davis witnesses firsthand just how generous the community can be, both in supporting local causes and those outside the community.
“We’ve seen time and again that Jackson County is a giving community,” he said. “People responded to the need of near-record flooding here in 2008. They responded and helped when a tornado ravaged Henryville. They responded to tornadoes in Missouri and Oklahoma, and they responded to international disasters elsewhere in the world.”
The foundation is responsible for investing donations and generating a stable source of income to provide grants and scholarships to meet the community’s needs now and in the future.
Giving to the foundation is on the rise, Davis said, because of new initiatives making it easier to donate and opportunities to maximize gifts.
“This year, we are seeing an increase in giving, and part of that is being fueled by our new GIFT VI initiative, where Lilly Endowment is making $500,000 in matching money available to the Community Foundation of Jackson County,” he said.
The foundation already has earned more than 70 percent of that money with donors’ increased giving, he added.
‘Paying it forward’
Davis said there are several reasons why people choose to donate their hard-earned money to charity. Some people do it for the tax write-off, but most do it because it makes them feel good, he said.
“There’s a sense of paying it forward, of feeling blessed and wanting to share that blessing,” he said.
Donations to the foundation range from $25 to thousands of dollars.
“You don’t have to have a lot of money to give,” he said.
But there are those who choose not to give for whatever reason.
“I think a lot of it may be that they aren’t raised in a family that makes philanthropy or giving to others a priority,” he said.
Economic factors also can play a role in determining whether a person donates, but in many cases, people who don’t have a lot of money find other ways to give back, Davis added. Other than money, people also give of their time and talents by volunteering.
Besides giving to the foundation, Jackson County residents support churches, the United Way, the Schneck Foundation and local civic groups, such as Rotary and Sertoma, Davis said.
With the amount of wealth available to give in Jackson County, Davis said it would be possible to build walking and hiking trails throughout the county, send every local high school graduate to college, create historic districts or give 60 books to every child before they reach kindergarten.
“If everyone donated just 5 percent of their estate to the foundation, our grant-making abilities would increase to $1.3 million every year,” he said.
‘Making an impact’
The local numbers don’t surprise Tonja Couch, either. Each year, the executive director of Jackson County United Way sees the county’s generosity in its support of the organization’s 20 partner agencies and programs.
“We’ve seen employers come on in great ways and increases happening,” she said. “It doesn’t matter how much people are giving. If they are giving at any level, that’s helping this community, and it’s making an impact in our areas of education, health and financial stability and through our 20 partners and their work.”
The United Way’s annual campaign runs from August to December. Couch and her staff spend a lot of time visiting workplaces around the county and encouraging them to get involved.
She said the easiest way to give is through payroll deduction.
“We start out at $1 a week or $52 a year all the way up to leadership gifts that can range from $360 to $1,500 or more,” she said. “That can come right off of your paycheck, and you don’t even miss it.”
The United Way also takes credit cards, stocks, cash and checks, and it offers online donations through PayPal on its website, jacsy.org.
Couch said small and large companies see the value of participating in the campaign. They see the work of the 20 partner agencies along with collaboration with the Jackson County Education Coalition, Jackson County Industrial Development Corp. and the Community Foundation.
‘Important to give back’
Excel Manufacturing in Seymour is among the local participating companies. Vice President Brent Kilgas said the company has been involved for more than 20 years, and it recently saw a 16 percent increase in employee participation.
He said information about the United Way was shared by guest speakers and through the company newsletter.
“I think it’s good that there is a centralized agency that can support 20 agencies so we’re not having to pick and choose as much,” Kilgas said. “From the employee standpoint, it’s great that (United Way) can help manage and distribute those funds they have available to those agencies.”
He said he believes in giving back.
“I think it’s important to give back of your time and of your funds to the communities that we all live in to make our communities better places,” he said.
Couch credits more people around the county getting involved to awareness, conversations and relationship-building.
“People have to know what we’re doing and what our mission is before they are going to give us a dollar,” she said. “They have to believe in the work that we’re doing and the impact and the difference that it’s really making before someone is going to say, ‘Hey, a dollar a week can really make a difference.’”
Couch said the United Way wants people to be inspired to give, so it’s important to share the right stories and messages to increase interest and participation.
“When we are out in payroll deduction campaigns, my question is, ‘What can United Way do to inspire you if you are a nongiver? What can United Way do to inspire you to give?’” she said. “We have to be doing something right in order for them to open their heart and open their wallet.”
‘Making a difference’
Even though United Way has its traditional campaign period, the staff is out in the community year-round, and a monthly e-newsletter is sent out.
“We’re providing support and we’re building awareness and we’re educating the community that United Way is here year-round and that we’re making a difference year-round,” Couch said. “We’re not just asking you for money, but we’re telling you what we’re doing with your money. We’re trying to make a stronger message in that way.”
Dave and Ann Windley of Seymour have made it a tradition to be givers. They are regular contributors to the local United Way and Community Foundation.
Dave Windley said giving to those organizations is the right thing to do.
“We both feel that we’ve been richly blessed in our lives and are in the position to help with our time and financially and feel privileged to do so,” he said. “I just feel that it’s something we really need to be doing. We have an obligation to do our part.”
Dave Windley was on the chartering board of the foundation. He said he and his wife strongly believe in that organization and the United Way.
“Both are run by local boards of community-minded citizens that I believe make good decisions in how they support different organizations that just benefit the overall living experience in the county,” he said.
“I think it’s important that all of us that live in the county find ways that we can make it a better place to live,” he said. “I think the community foundation and United Way are examples of those kinds of programs, organizations that deserve our support.”
He encouraged others to give when they are able.
“I’ve been involved in a lot of different community nonprofit organizations, and I can’t think of any time that I didn’t get more out of it than I put into it,” he said. “I would just encourage people to find out what service some of these organizations can do for them.”
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Household giving in 2012, the most recent year numbers were available:
Giving ratio;3.69 percent
Total adjusted gross income;$418,840,000
Median adjusted gross income;$76,753
Giving ratio;3.26 percent
Total adjusted gross income;$87,973,297,000
Median adjusted gross income;$81,316
Giving ratios of nearby counties
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Adjusted gross income: Individual or household gross income minus some business expenses, unreimbursed medical expenses, retirement plan contributions and other deductions.
Giving ratio: The percentage of AGI given to charity as determined using the charitable deductions reported on the income tax forms.
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“I think it’s important to give back of your time and of your funds to the communities that we all live in to make our communities better places.”
Brent Kilgas, vice president of Excel Manufacturing in Seymour, on why his company supports the annual United Way campaign